Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium


This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.


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E.g., 06/17/2024
E.g., 06/17/2024

In this Yancy County case, defendant appealed his conviction for second-degree forcible sex offense, arguing defective language in the indictment deprived the trial court of jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals found the indictment was sufficient and the trial court had jurisdiction.  

The Court of Appeals first explained that under G.S. 15-144.2(c), a short-form indictment alleging that the defendant engaged in a sex offense with a physically helpless person is acceptable, and this type of indictment was used in the current case. Defendant argued that under State v. Singleton, 285 N.C. App. 630 (2022), the short-form indictment was insufficient. The court disagreed, explaining that the short-form indictment in Singleton was for a second-degree rape charge, and the statute in question “differs slightly from its counterpart statute allowing a short-form indictment to be used to charge a sexual offense charge” meaning the issues identified in Singleton did not support defendant’s argument in the current case.  Slip Op. at 3. 

In this second-degree sex offense case, the court vacated and remanded for entry of judgment on attempted sexual offense where the indictment charged the defendant only with an attempted, not a completed, sex offense. The indictment, labeled “Second Degree Sexual Offense,” alleged that the defendant “did attempt to engage in a sex offense with the victim.” Notwithstanding this, the trial court instructed the jury on the completed offense and provided no instruction on attempt. 

Where the indictment charged the defendant with sexual offense in violation of G.S. 14-27.4(a)(1) (first-degree statutory sex offense with a child under the age of 13), the trial court erred by instructing the jury on sexual offense with a child in violation of G.S. 14-27.4A(a) (statutory sexual offense by an adult). The court noted that the charged offense was a lesser included of the offense of conviction, and that while the charged offense requires the State to prove that the defendant was at least 12 years old and at least 4 years older than the victim, the offense of conviction requires proof that the defendant is at least 18 years old. The court found itself bound by State v. Hicks, 239 N.C. App. 396 (Feb. 17, 2015), vacated the conviction and remanded for resentencing on the lesser included offense.

The trial court committed plain error by instructing the jury on sexual offense with a child by an adult offender under G.S. 14-27.4A when the indictment charged the defendant with first-degree sexual offense in violation of G.S. 14-27.4(a)(1), a lesser-included of the G.S. 14-27.4A crime. The court vacated defendant's conviction under G.S. 14-27.4A and remanded for resentencing and entry of judgment on the lesser-included offense. Additionally, the court appealed to the General Assembly to clarify the relevant law:

This case illustrates a significant ongoing problem with the sexual offense statutes of this State: the various sexual offenses are often confused with one another, leading to defective indictments.

Given the frequency with which these errors arise, we strongly urge the General Assembly to consider reorganizing, renaming, and renumbering the various sexual offenses to make them more easily distinguishable from one another. Currently, there is no uniformity in how the various offenses are referenced, and efforts to distinguish the offenses only lead to more confusion. For example, because "first degree sexual offense" encompasses two different offenses, a violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.4(a)(1) is often referred to as "first degree sexual offense with a child" or "first degree statutory sexual offense" to distinguish the offense from "first degree sexual offense by force" under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.4(a)(2). "First degree sexual offense with a child," in turn, is easily confused with "statutory sexual offense" which could be a reference to a violation of either N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.4A (officially titled "[s]exual offense with a child; adult offender") or N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.7A (2013) (officially titled "[s]tatutory rape or sexual offense of person who is 13, 14, or 15 years old"). Further adding to the confusion is the similarity in the statute numbers of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.4(a)(1) and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.4A. We do not foresee an end to this confusion until the General Assembly amends the statutory scheme for sexual offenses.

(citations omitted).

In re J.F., 237 N.C. App. 218 (Nov. 18, 2014)

Noting that the sufficiency of a petition alleging a juvenile to be delinquent is evaluated by the same standards that apply to indictments, the court held that petitions alleging two acts of sexual offense and two acts of crime against nature were sufficient. In addition to tracking the statutory language, one sexual offense and one crime against nature petition alleged that the juvenile performed fellatio on the victim; the other sexual offense and crime against nature petitions alleged that the victim performed fellatio on the juvenile. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that any more detail was required, noting that if the juvenile wanted more information about the factual circumstances underlying each charge he should have moved for a bill of particulars.

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